Okay, so this is an AU based off the promo for 3x15 (which I watched about a million times while writing this; you can find it on the suits youtube channel if you haven't seen it) where Mike takes the job that Jonathan is offering. It doesn't have much of a plot, but it sort of explores how Mike and Harvey would fall out if Mike left and then eventually fall back together. I split it into 2 chapters because it felt too long as one big one-shot, but it is a completed work.
Warnings for angst and friendship, possible spoilers. I don't own anything (but I would recommend listening to the song! hint hint nudge nudge)
I wrote this because of all the feels that the back 6 have given me! This isn't really a fix-it fic, it's just me wanting Harvey to tell Mike not to leave the firm.
And the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we will live a long life.
From "Ghosts That We Knew" by Mumford & Sons
Mike takes the job.
Because really, how can he not? He knows that everyone wants him to. Jessica likes the idea of him leaving because her firm will no longer be jeopardized by his presence; Rachel likes it because she has never quite felt secure living the lie alongside Mike and wants him to go legit for the sake of their future together. Louis probably just likes it because, for as much as he has mellowed out over the course of Mike's time at Pearson Specter, he still is not Mike's biggest fan and never will be.
Even Harvey seems alright with the idea. Or rather…not alright, exactly, but understanding and accepting of Mike's reasoning behind the decision. When Mike works up the courage to tell him about the offer, Harvey says that he would take the job if he were in Mike's situation. There's an odd bite to his tone and he snaps at Mike when Mike says that he isn't sure if he wants to leave the legal profession behind, but he doesn't ask Mike to stay.
And in the end, that's why he takes up Jonathan's offer.
Donna seems convinced that Harvey is going to have some sort of emotional meltdown if Mike leaves, but Mike sticks to his guns.
"I'm going to say what he won't," Donna says when Mike tells her of his decision, her voice trembling slightly with emotion and desperation to make Mike understand. "He needs you."
"I don't want to live like this anymore," he hears himself say. Selfish words. Me, I, my life. But he is resolute. Leaving Pearson Specter and becoming an investment banker is the only way that he'll be able to go legit in a way that is somewhat comparable to being a real lawyer. He will get the chance to work somewhere where his upward mobility is boundless and unrestrained, and he'll be able to stop looking over his shoulder for fear that today is the day his secret will be exposed.
And Jonathan is right—investment banking is fairly similar to being a lawyer. It requires the same sharp-witted, innovative thinking, playing the odds; the same head for numbers. He will be good at it; of that he has no doubt. In this job, he sees a clear future.
And he knows that Donna thinks he is horribly self-involved for claiming this as his reasoning for taking the job. "You might as well just leave right now," she says, and her tone is sharp and angry but her eyes are sad and disappointed in him and his apparent willingness to abandon them at the drop of a hat when a better offer comes knocking.
Still, he holds his head high as he walks out of Harvey's office, leaving her standing there with her fists clenched in betrayed disgust on Harvey's behalf. Because while he might not say it out loud, the number one reason he has for taking Jonathan's offer is that Harvey will be safer if he is gone. The pair of them have had some close calls recently—some very close calls, particularly with the recent Louis fiasco.
And he knows that Harvey has proved many times over that he is willing to risk it all for Mike. And incredibly, Harvey hadn't denied it when Mike called him his friend when it had seemed that Louis would expose him the other week, a thought that still warms him in spite of the constant anxiety that swirls around in his stomach nowadays as he contemplates his muddled future.
But Mike can't let Harvey risk his career like this anymore. He is far more experienced and independent than he was when he first stared at Pearson Specter; back when he was a proper puppy, still wet behind the ears. And Harvey had trained him up and given him independence and it's not fair for him to lean on Harvey's protection anymore. Harvey has given him everything, and the older lawyer deserves better than constantly having to fear for his own reputation and firm where his associate is concerned. Mike sees a final way out, so he will do them all a favor by taking it.
He goes to Harvey's office that night to do the thing properly; in person. Just as Grammy and his parents had always taught him. His mouth tastes bitter as he knocks on the cold glass of the door door, and his fingers shake slightly as he pulls the handle open. Harvey is not smiling when he looks up from his computer, but his face becomes even grimmer still when he sees that it is Mike at the door, the lines around his mouth tightening in the way it always does when something is happening that is out of his control.
"Mike," he says, his voice absolutely wooden as he stands at his desk. By some unspoken mutual agreement, they go and stand at the window where they have stood together many times in the past, looking down at the lights below them. Mike doesn't bother to unbutton his suit jacket—he knows this won't take long. They both know exactly why he is here.
"Harvey," he returns, inclining his head and trying to remember why he is doing this. Best to just jump right in before he loses his courage. "I'm going to take Jonathan's offer." Please ask me to stay.
Mike barely hears himself his own announcement over the blood rushing through his ears, and the only indication that Harvey has heard him is that his mouth tightens even further, pressing into a dangerously thin line.
"I want to thank you for all that you've given me in the past two years," he says, the words overly formal on his tongue. His voice is strangled, and his heart is a throbbing, leaden weight in his stomach. "I would never have any of this without you, and I will never forget what you've done for me—" he stops before he does something embarrassing, like cry. I don't want to do this, Harvey.
Harvey merely nods stonily in his direction, seeming unaffected by Mike's sentimentality. "I accept your resignation, effective immediately. I'll have Donna deposit your last paycheck by next week."
And that's it; that is all the goodbye that Harvey has to offer him after two years together as mentor and protégé; as boss and associate; as friends.
It is clear that Harvey has nothing else to say to him, and Mike stands for a moment longer as Harvey turns from the window, caught between wanting to leave and end this torture, and wanting to linger in hopes that Harvey would change his mind and ask Mike to stay.
"Goodbye, Mike," Harvey says, and there is an unmistakable finality in his voice as he opens the door expectantly, waiting for Mike to get out. A lump swells in Mike's throat and he curses his own stupidity—this is Harvey: why is he disappointed by Harvey's apathy? Why had he been expecting some sort of emotional speech? That isn't how he and Harvey operate, and he knows it. If this thing is over, it's really over. Harvey will cut him out completely, because that's what Harvey Specter does when people get to close and then hurt him. Mike has made his decision. And now he's going to have to deal with the consequences.
He does not look back as he slips past Harvey and into the hallway. He impulsively decides to walk back to his and Rachel's apartment, needing the quiet to process all that has happened. He will have to call Jonathan at some point too, let him know that he will be coming to join his new corporation. The idea doesn't hold as much appeal as it should.
As he trails through the chilly night air, he can't shake the feeling that he has just thrown away the best thing in his life. He loves—well, loved—his job at Pearson Specter. The law has always been his passion, and he has come to regard many of the people there as his family.
Still, he reminds himself, he is doing the right thing. He doesn't have much family left, and he is protecting his family at the firm the best he knows how by leaving them.
The words sound slightly forced in his own head. And protection aspect aside, that doesn't mean that it doesn't suck royally.
A week goes by, and then two weeks. And before Mike knows it, he has gone a full month without seeing anyone from Pearson Specter. Well, anyone besides Rachel, that is. He still lives with her, obviously, and she seems much more at ease now that he is 'living clean', so to speak. He hadn't realized how heavily keeping his secret had weighed upon her until she was freed from its weight. She laughs more easily these days; talks about their future more often.
He's glad that she's so happy for him, but it really isn't what he's looking for at the moment. He's still grieving the loss of his life as a lawyer, as pathetic as it might sound, and he isn't quite ready to be happy and relieved about his new life.
Harvey had cut him off so quickly when Mike had given him his resignation notice that he hadn't gotten to say goodbye to Donna or Jessica or Louis. Part of it is his own cowardliness—it's not like he was fired or has any particular reason to be ashamed about showing his face there now—he left on his own terms to take a new job, and there is no shame in that. But still, he can't bring himself to return to Pearson Specter—it feels too raw, like an exposed nerve, and he prefers not to poke at it; to focus instead on finding happiness in his new life. But that is why Rachel cleaned out his cubicle and brought all the things from his desk home herself. He tells himself that it is just because he is too busy with his new job to go in and clean his old desk, but they both know that that is a lie. He is afraid that if he goes back there, he will change his mind about leaving.
As the weeks slide by and he slowly settles into the fast-paced, cutthroat world of investment banking, his time at Pearson Specter begins to blur and seem like it was lifetimes ago. How does Donna like her ridiculously complicated coffee order again—two shots of espresso, or three? Is it Wednesdays or Thursdays that Harvey always wears a pinstriped tie? What's the name of that organic brand of granola bars that Louis was obsessed with?
He is sure that if he sifts through his gifted memory, he will be able to find the answers easily enough. But it hurts to remember.
"Hey, Mike," a new voice says from the doorway of his office—oh yeah, he has an office now, and its size and luxury practically rival Harvey's—and Mike looks up to see Jonathan standing at the door with a friendly grin. "How are those estimates on the DOW going?"
"Uh…they're coming along," Mike says, fumbling with papers on his desk and attempting to make it look like he's been doing work instead of scrabbling to remember the tie-wearing schedule of his former boss.
"Sounds good," Jonathan says casually, and that is something that Mike is still not used to. He and Jonathan are more or less equals in this new corporation, and Mike is unused to not having to answer to someone; be it Harvey or Louis or Jessica. If he tells Jonathan that he doesn't have something done, Jonathan doesn't press him or threaten him. He just accepts that Mike will get it done when he can. "Hey, did you read that piece in the Times today about the ebb and flow of the Micronesian free market? It was actually quite brilliant; the author brought a very fresh perspective to the matter…"
Jonathan keeps talking after that, but Mike tunes him out—he has learned in the past month that Jonathan is prone to long, rambling speeches about economics, and these tangents are generally unrelated to anything Mike actually needs to know for work. He envies the way the way Jonathan loves investment banking; the passion he has for the way the stock market rises and falls; its life cycle. He often waxes poetic on how their economic system is a living, breathing organism.
It reminds Mike of how he's always felt about the law.
"Here's a copy if you want to read it for yourself," Jonathan concludes, tossing a copy of the Times at Mike, who scrambles to catch it. "You mind bringing those estimates to my office when you're done with them?"
But Mike is frozen, because on the bottom left corner of the front page of the times there is a picture of Harvey. It is a jolt to his chest to unexpectedly see a photo of his former mentor. In the grainy black-and-white image, Harvey is emerging from court, and the triumphant, confident smirk on his face that means he's just won big is unmistakable in spite of the poor resolution. Sure enough, when Mike skims the article below, he learns that Harvey has just coaxed a jury into demanding a multi-million dollar settlement for Julius, Inc., one of their newest clients. Mike hadn't been involved in the case at all, and it stings slightly to sees this very visible proof that life at Pearson Specter has carried on just fine without him; that Harvey seems just as smug and confident and successful as ever even without Mike at his side.
"You okay, Mike?" Jonathan is saying, and Mike forces himself to swallow and put the newspaper down.
"Wha—oh, yeah, sorry; just got distracted thinking about something I may have missed in the estimates. I'll revise it and get them to you in the next hour or two," he promises, clearing his throat and flipping the Times over and stuffing it into his desk drawer so that he doesn't have to see the picture any longer. At least working with Harvey has taught him to think on his feet when he hasn't completed a task he should have.
Jonathan waves him off, unconcerned. "Sure, no rush. I'd rather you be thorough. Anyway, I'll be in my office tweaking the algorithm."
With that he is gone, and Mike is left thinking about how he is still unused to that, too. With Harvey, he had always had to work his ass off to earn every single shred of Harvey's respect. But Jonathan's respect is freely given. It's odd, but somehow a pat on the back from Harvey for finding a tricky precedent meant volumes more to him than Jonathan's easy trust now that he will complete his tasks in a timely manner.
This thought still weighs heavily on his mind when he shows up at Jonathan's office a half hour later with the estimates for the Newton Bank's fourth quarter cash flow, earlier than promised.
"Thanks, Mike," Jonathan says with a grateful smile, turning down the volume of the hypnotic electronica-jazz that he often listens to while working. "Always on time or early even! Keep working like this and you'll be my boss in a few years."
He knows that that is high praise indeed if the CEO of what is thus far proving to be a fast-rising corporation is basically promising that he will be CFO one day. But all he can think about as he leaves Jonathan's office for the evening is that Harvey would never have listened to electronica-jazz—in fact, Harvey always claimed that any electronic influences in classic jazz are an evil on the same level as those Crocs or that show about the Honey Boo-Boo Child.
The thought shouldn't feel so bittersweet in his lungs, but it lingers, cloying and painful, long after he is curls up next to Rachel in bed that night.
He is doing his best to move on, but some days are harder than others.
As always, Donna whirls into his life with purpose and fire, catching him off his guard and making him feels two steps behind the rest of the world.
"If you know what's best for you, you'll buy me lunch at that café across the street—their dessert is divine, and I didn't come all this way to observe what a pitiful state you're in without the promise of comfort food at the very least."
"Wha—Donna, what are you doing here?" Mike exclaims, the words falling from his mouth with incredulity. He sits up much straighter on the park bench where he had been lounging, nursing a coffee and munching on a bagel for lunch. Rachel would disapprove of his unsophisticated palate if she knew, but he hasn't had much of an appetite lately. It's been almost two months since he left Pearson Hardman; two months since he has seen Donna, and he is surprised by how fiercely he has missed her; missed her confidence and self-assuredness in every aspect of life.
Suddenly he is standing and they are embracing—he isn't sure who initiates it—but it feels a bit like coming home. Donna's gaze is brighter than normal when she pulls away, but she doesn't let any emotion seep into her regal tone.
"To the café—I'm sure you can more than handle paying for lunch, what with the salary Jonathan is undoubtedly dishing out."
Never one to risk the wrath of Donna—he might be a bit gloomy nowadays, but he isn't suicidal—he escorts her across the street and into the small, elegant café that Donna seems to be fixated on. His office is just down the street and he is actually due to be finishing up with his lunch hour, but he is sure Jonathan won't care or penalize him if he doesn't come back exactly on time. He is one of the high-ups at the corporation, after all, and he has pull and influence. It's an odd feeling, and he wonders if this is what Harvey feels like when he gets to decide to come into the office at 7:30 or 9:00 while Mike is—was—always there by 7:00 without question.
They are silent as they wait to be seated, but it's a comfortable silence. He and Donna may not have left on the greatest of terms, but Donna doesn't hold grudges in the same way that Harvey does.
When they do get a small table in front of the window, bathed in natural light, the waitress takes their drink orders—coffee for Mike, tea for Donna. And then without preamble, Donna speaks.
"When Harvey's parents divorced, he was sixteen," she says, her gaze far-away. Mike narrows his eyes—Donna has never revealed personal information about Harvey's past to him before. But she keeps going, obviously having a purpose behind this story.
"Marcus was only eight at the time, and Harvey's father got custody of the two of them. He hasn't seen his mother since. Much of the responsibility to raise Marcus fell on Harvey's shoulders, because their father was buried in his work and his music, trying to deal with the pain of his failed marriage."
Mike nods, still not sure where Donna is going with all of this. He feels a bit guilty that Donna is divulging all of this information to him—some of it he has guessed for himself, but Harvey is so private that he knows there are things he'll never know about the older man; things he would never dare to ask.
"The two of them were very close—Harvey took the responsibility very seriously. He pushed Marcus to get good grades and made sure that he got into a good college. But Marcus began resenting Harvey's high expectations when he went off to college. He never wanted to do anything but play music, and he felt like Harvey was making unrealistic demands of him by pushing him to go to school."
The waitress arrives with their drinks, but Mike hardly notices that she has given him Donna's tea until he takes a sip, he is so wrapped up in the story.
"Harvey was twenty-six the first Christmas I knew him—he had just started at the DA's office after law school, and Marcus had just started college that fall. I was his secretary even back then, and I was the one who took the call when Marcus phoned to say that he wasn't coming home for Christmas that year. Told me to tell Harvey that he had 'better things to do'. I still remember the look on Harvey's face—he was much younger; much more open with his emotions, and it was like he'd been sucker punched when I had to tell him that his brother didn't want to spend Christmas with him."
The waitress is back and she is asking them for their orders. Donna has her detailed request prepared, but Mike just vaguely points at something off the menu and hopes that he will like it—he's not even that hungry, anyway.
Donna seems to sense his impatience with the waitress, because she continues as soon as the woman turns away.
"The two of them have grown back together over the years, and I think they do spend most of the holidays together now. But they wasted so much time because Marcus was resentful and Harvey was too afraid to confront him. Too afraid to try and resolve their issues and give Marcus a reason to come back home. Because if he tried and he still failed, what would he have left then?"
She sits back, seeming finished with the story, and Mike is righteously indignant at that bullshit ending. "So what, you're trying to tell me that I'm damaging Harvey's delicate psyche by working for Jonathan? Come on, Donna, we both know that's not true—Harvey's not that fresh-faced 26-year-old anymore. You should have seen the look on his face when I told him I was taking the job. Completely unaffected."
Donna sighs, her face softening. "I'm not trying to tell you anything. Just that I stand by what I said before—Harvey needs you. Harvey misses you. He just can't bring himself to tell you."
"Well, if he really needs me so much, I'm sure he could have brought himself to tell me that. If it really mattered to him." These are the words that have been haunting him for the past two months—if Harvey cared, surely he would have said something by now. He knows where Mike lives; knows Mike's phone number.
"All I'm asking is that you just think about it, Mike. I know that you think you're protecting him by leaving the legal profession, but Harvey's a big boy. He takes responsibility for his own decisions, such as the decision to hire you in the first place."
The waitress comes with their food then, and Mike notices that Donna had ordered dessert along with her meal. "I'll take all this to go," she tells the waitress, piling the food into two to-go boxes. "I have to be getting back to work."
"Harvey doesn't know that you came to see me," Mike deduces from that. "He doesn't want you talking to me on his behalf. He's still mad at me."
Donna purses her lips, leaning down to hug Mike good-bye. "Your observation skills have improved a lot since you began at Pearson Hardman," she remarks, sounding fond. "I accept full credit for that."
"Donna," he says, a thought occurring to him. "Was that story about Marcus true, or did you just make it up as a metaphor?"
Donna just smiles mysteriously at him. "Maybe you'll have to ask Harvey the next time you speak to him. While hopefully will be soon." Mike rolls his eyes. "Thanks for the lunch!"
And then Donna glides away, and Mike is left with plate of pasta that he doesn't remember ordering, and the bill.
Part of him wishes he could get in the taxi next to her and go back to Pearson Specter like everything was normal and he was still an associate. The other part of him tries to forget the whole encounter. He has been doing better nowadays—Pearson Specter is a wound that is slowly scabbing and healing, but it still itches and burns sometimes when he presses on it.
He has gained some things—a new office, a job with unlimited upward mobility, safety and security that he won't be arrested for committing fraud….but he has lost a lot in the process, too.